Historical Rights to Land: How Latin American States Made the Past Normative and What Happened to History and Historical Education as a Result

Herzog analyzes how nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin American states used and misused history to make claims to territory. Appealing to the idea that they each had “historical rights” to certain lands, these countries pretended to solve their territorial and border conflicts by recreating what they imagined was their extension during the colonial period, under Spanish or Portuguese rule. Recruiting history to what were essentially political and legal pretensions affected the way it was taught and researched. This chapter explores these important relations between past and present, history and claim making, arguing that there was a considerable discrepancy between what professional historians concluded and what politicians and teachers instructed. While the former believed the past was complex and constantly mutating and without moral lessons to offer, the latter suggested it had an unequivocal meaning and clear message.